Employ Better Questions

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. – VOLTAIRE”

When an employee, peer or even a boss comes to see us with a problem, we sometimes try to create a “win” by supplying solutions… and instead of winning, we lose.

We lose the opportunity to develop staff by teaching them to find answers, we lose access to potentially valuable ideas, and we lose energy by burdening ourselves with the problem-solving.

The solution is not just to ask questions, but to employ questions to inspire, educate and enable the people around us.


Open-ended empowering questions convey respect and encourage others to develop as thinkers and problem solvers – and they will…

Create Clarity: Can you explain more about this situation?

Improve Relationships: Not “Did you make your sales goal?” but, “How have sales been going?

Create Analytical & Critical Thinking: What are the consequences of going this route?

Inspire Reflection & New Insight: Why did this work?

Encourage Breakthroughs: Can that be done in any other way?

Challenge Assumptions: What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?

Create Ownership: Based on your experience, what do you suggest we do here?


  • Demand Questions – trigger a defensive stance:
    • Why are you behind schedule?
    • What’s the problem with this project?
    • Who isn’t keeping up?
  • Leading Questions – inhibit candid answers:
    • You tried to do it yourself, didn’t you?
    • Don’t you agree John’s the problem?
  • Closed Questions – can sound like an interrogation:
    • What time is the meeting?
    • Who else will be there?
    • When will the report be ready?


The Best Article We Found on Questions Was “How To Ask Better Questions” from the Harvard Business Review… as well as these two:

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